Aussie rider Josh Pickering has warned that Edinburgh Monarchs’ vital Championship clash against lowly defending champions Sheffield Tigers at Armadale tonight could be a banana skin waiting to happen.
The Tigers’ form this season has plunged through the floor and they are second from bottom in the league table in what has proved a dismal defence of their league crown.
But Pickering is urging caution, saying: “That’s the thing about speedway – sometimes you think you are in for an easy match and it turns out to be your hardest. All I know is I go into every match wanting to win. I have no idea how many points we need to make the play-offs but it would be nice to reach them.”
Since Monarchs strengthened up with the acquisition of Richie Worrall as third heat leader, they have piled up 134 points in their last two home matches against Redcar and Scunthorpe respectively.
And, despite ditching Max Clegg this week in favour of William Lawson, Pickering thinks Monarchs have a team people are taking note of. He said: “We have got a very strong team now. We are capable of achieving big things and it would be nice to finish the season on a high.”
Worrall’s arrival at Armadale has furnished Monarchs with a much-needed scoring boost at the top end of the squad and Pickering said: “I feel I have stepped up my game. Since I was No.3 in the team in the last four or five weeks, I have scored a few double-figure returns, except for last Saturday’s match at Berwick.
“It’s good having Richie in the team. We now, in effect, have four heat leaders including myself.”
Pickering, 22, is now in his second full season with Monarchs but he does concede there is always scope for improvement. “I think I have done my job since coming over two years ago. I feel every time I get on a bike I’m getting better. This year has been a stop/start season really.
“Next year I’d like to get a Premiership place if I can to give me more meetings. There have been times when I have been sitting around wishing I could ride.
“I feel I have held up my side of the bargain so far with Monarchs.”
Pickering added: “I’m still keeping my 2019 options open. If Monarchs want me back again that would be good – just to know that I’m wanted.”
Monarchs co promoter John Campbell said recently that it was nice that Josh had “come to the scoring party”. Pickering said: “John tells me if I’m doing good and also tells me what I’m doing wrong!
“I don’t like people talking behind my back. John and Alex (Harkess) are good because if you are not pulling your weight they’ll tell you, but in a nice way. I have a lot of time for them both, which is great.”
Pickering added: “I’m just looking to improve further. I feel I’m more comfortable on a bike now.
“There are things I still do out of habit, not because I need to, and, if I can overcome this mental barrier, I would be happy.”
In a bid to end the year on something of a positive note, Sheffield axed Lasse Bjerre and reserve Joe Lawlor on Monday, replacing them with Kasper Andersen and Connor Mountain.
Monarchs will want to bounce back from their heavy 51-39 defeat at Berwick last Saturday and feel they must win one more away trip and not lose at home to stand any chance of reaching the end-of-season play-offs.
Harkess said: “We always knew Berwick would be a difficult away match for us. It’s all about gating at Berwick and getting into the first turn in front which we did not do.
“But Berwick are strong round their own track and make life difficult for visiting teams. I thought we might have managed to nick a match point but it proved beyond us. Now we must try and pick up a road win somewhere else and not drop any points at home.”